The Reel Review


This eye-opening 2018 documentary goes behind the scenes at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, to peer inside the inner workings of the world’s busiest airport, which prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, was moving a whopping 100 million passengers per year.

Atlanta air traffic control from The Secret Life of the World’s Busiest Airport

The filmmakers’ all-access pass includes a fascinating glimpse at parts of the airport very few people will ever see in person. It shows the impressive, high-tech labyrinth of underground baggage conveyers, the overnight maintenance crews that work on planes and clean the airport, an impressive, computerized inventory of more than 65,000 spare airplane parts managed by robotic machinery, and even the dogs who sniff for explosives and invasive plants, produce and pests that if uncaught, would wreak havoc on the nation’s agricultural economy.

Atlanta airport’s baggage conveyer from The Secret Life of the World’s Busiest Airport

Superimposing mind-blowing statistics over visuals of these rarely seen parts of the airport, the documentary manages to educate, entertain and instill a newfound appreciation among those of us who fly through the Atlanta airport. You’ll be surprised to learn something new that you hadn’t even considered. And at just over an hour in length, the quick pacing means you’ll still have time to make your connection.


• With the exception of the 2020 air travel dip due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport briefly take the top spot, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has been the world’s busiest airport since 1998.

• As of 2021, the five busiest domestic destinations from Atlanta were Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, New York’s LaGuardia, Miami and Tampa. The busiest international destinations were Cancun, Paris’ DeGaulle, Amsterdam, Mexico City and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Wreckage from the crashed Southern Airways jet in 1977 and (right) flight attendant Sandy Purl at a 1997 memorial in New Hope, Georgia.

• There has been only ONE major crash in the history of the airport, in 1977, when a hailstorm knocked out the engines on a Southern Airways DC-9 flying from Huntsville, Alabama to Atlanta. The attempted emergency landing on a highway in the North Georgia town of New Hope killed both pilots, 61 passengers and 9 people on the ground. Both surviving flight attendants were subsequently commended for their quick pre-crash instructions, which saved the lives of 20 passengers.

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